Among my many interests are theater and — no surprise here! — gambling. Little did I think my two pastimes would coincide until I saw the umpteenth rerun of “Guys and Dolls” on Turner Classic Movies the other night.
Watching the “Crap Shooters Ballet” as Frank Sinatra crooned “Luck Be A Lady Tonight” in the background made me think about other Broadway musicals that feature gambling.
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Here are some that come to mind. Can you think of others?
“Bell Are Ringing” — In the song “It’s a Simple Little System,” the last names of classical music composers are used as codes for racetracks around the country. In case the police are listening in, bettors call into a telephone answering service using, for example, Puccini for Pimlico and Beethoven for Belmont Park.
“Disaster” — A spoof of disaster movies (think “Airport,” “Towering Inferno” and “The Poseidon Adventure”), this musical features a slot machine-addicted nun who sings “Never Can Say Goodbye” while grabbing the machine like a life preserver on a sinking ship — which it is! No original score here, but a collection of 1970s hits selected to “illustrate” the many stock characters (and predicaments) we found ourselves watching when this genre was popular.
“Fiorello” — Loosely based on the life of former New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the show features “Politics and Poker,” a song as timely today as it was when the show opened in 1959. A sampling of the lyrics: “We gotta pick a candidate this year. Shuffle up the cards and find the joker.”
“Funny Girl” — “Ziegfeld Follies” star Fanny Brice marries gambler Nick Arnstein and, by Act II, loses the money she invested in Arnstein’s failed casino.
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“Honeymoon In Vegas” — Jack and girlfriend Betsy elope to Las Vegas. Betsy catches the attention of wealthy gambler Tommy Korman, who invites Jack to a private poker game where he beats Jack’s straight flush with a royal flush. To settle the $58,000 gambling debt, Jack agrees to let Tommy spend the rest of the weekend with Betsy. You’ll have to see the show — or the film that inspired it — to learn the conclusion.
“Spamalot” — Perhaps modeled after the Excalibur Hotel and Casino, Camelot is portrayed as a deliberately anachronistic Vegas-esque city with showgirls, flashing lights and oversized dice.
“Steel Pier” — Set in 1933 Atlantic City, the plot revolves around an aging celebrity, a stunt pilot and a dance marathon at Steel Pier.
Recreational gambler Darryl D. McEwen, a former professional journalist, is president of his own consulting firm that manages several small national and international trade associations, and provides public relations and fundraising services for a number of charitable organizations. Have a comment on this or a question specifically related to an Atlantic City casino, players club or other promotion? Email Darryl at MrACCasino@gmail.com and he’ll try to respond to you personally. Your question, without your name, may appear in a future column.